Monday, April 28, 2008


Like every other American, I have a secret list of what I consider to be life’s guilty pleasures. Some are traditionally (and pathetically) obvious: Egyptian cotton sheets, a good bottle of sangiovese, a classic Audrey Hepburn romance film, and a sinfully expensive pair of Italian heels.

But as of late, I have a new guilty pleasure: taking advantage of every opportunity to mock, ridicule, and scoff at Bush’s disastrous embarrassment of a Presidency. You know the feeling – the painfully enjoyable sensation you get every time he delivers a muddled, ambiguously misconstrued speech – the sadistic feeling of shock and disbelief after watching him cowboy swagger to the podium with his Cheney-posse. I have a feeling that I’m not alone on this one.

So this weekend, when practically handed a new opportunity for a Bush-attack, I surprised myself by suddenly recognizing the dangerous trap I had fallen into. My guilty pleasure had turned into a perilous blame game. Somehow, in an effort to shun Bush, we’ve begun to mimic him – placing blame instead of taking responsibility.

George W. Bush is not to blame for America’s oil crisis.

The Republicans, Cheney, Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi War, Ben Bernanke, hedge fund managers, and subprime mortgage lenders are all not the secret culprits behind the prices at the pump.

Like all Americans, I’m crushed about the price of gas and I’m giddy about the upcoming election. But we need not confuse the two. Ending the Bush regime will accomplish a lot of great things (think: better healthcare, decreased unemployment, sounder war policy) but the election will not suddenly reverse the 25% increase in the price of light crude oil this fiscal year.

Crude prices are a global problem; they’ve surged more than fivefold since 2002. The spread of globalization and the demand of emerging economies (China) have placed an increased strain on a diminishing resource. Americans aren’t the only ones vying for oil anymore. Simple economics: increased global demand coupled with a diminishing supply. Sure, the fall of the dollar and geopolitical problems exacerbated oil prices; but we need to look beyond America’s economic status.

So instead of placing blame, we need to begin to rethink our relationship with oil. It’s also important to recognize that the prices won’t be going down – regardless of the upcoming election. We need substantial action – and I don’t mean purchasing a Toyota Prius Hybrid. We need to consider new innovative methods of travel, specifically by means of electric public transportation. And we need to rethink our relationship with plastics and rubber – both oil dependent necessities.

Bernanke will walk the tightrope of interest rate cuts again on Wednesday. Perhaps he can manage to rescue the American people without allowing inflation to increase. Perhaps we’ll see the stock market bottom out during the third quarter summer lull. Perhaps we’ll all get in a few more pleasure-filled laughs from our comedian of a President.

Either way, it’s about time for us all to scratch oil-hungry SUVs and long scenic joy rides off our guilty pleasures list. We’d all be better off with a little more chocolate and red wine anyways.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

If McCain Wins, America Loses

If we elect John McCain, America will demonstrate how socially backward, morally bankrupt and politically inept it has truly become. Maybe Republicans want us to vote on who is more patriotic, which is completely subjective. I say that a flag lapel pin doesn’t make a patriot if that person is willing to send hundreds of thousands to death in a false war and simultaneously tear down the very laws that make us free. But, that’s just my opinion. Maybe they want us to vote on who would have the ability to provide cheap (and crappy) beer to America. Keep us drunk to keep our minds off the misery that is Bush’s reality. I guess McCain would win that contest, but as for the actual election, there is too much at stake to waste a vote on John McCain.

First, on the issues of the economy, McCain has continually demonstrated that he does not, in fact, know anything about how our economy actually works. Though he has shown that he is willing to accept how corporate lobbyists want our economy to work. I think this is the most important fact when it comes to McCain’s economy: McCain’s economic plan does not budget for the war in Iraq. Does not even mention it. Does not believe in accounting for the single greatest expenditure in American history. Hello?! For the man who is an ardent supporter of this war, wants to be in the country for, well, ever, and wants to go to war with Iran, China, North Korea, Russia, and probably Venezuela, this budget is a joke. All it does is fling money at wealthy individuals and corporations without acknowledging the reality of our current situation.

So, if that doesn’t scare you, here’s more. We all know that McCain was against Bush’s tax cuts. Why? Because they don’t give enough to the 99.9% of people that actually make up America. Now, he’s for them. Hm, sounds like someone sold out to the ridiculous neo-con perspective (I’ve got mine, screw everyone else) to get the Republican nomination.

And now McCain is pushing a suspension of the federal gas tax, saying it would ease gas prices by 20% (in reality, it’s only 5%, but we know McCain no longer operates in reality). What does he think people are going to do when gas is $3.32 vice $3.50? Yea, I’m not planning that road trip yet, and neither is the rest of America. A suspension does absolutely nothing to address the true cause of these inflated oil prices, corporate greed. Additionally, the federal gas tax goes to support and repair our highways, which are in dire need of maintenance. Not to sound morbid, but maybe McCain should ask the victims of the Minneapolis bridge collapse if they support taking money from highway repair. He would be putting even more Americans at risk of such a tragedy.

In case we weren’t convinced of the utter failure of supply-side economics, there is the sticky little problem of the current economic downturn being “rescued” be demand side policies. Give the people money and they will spend it. Of course, that will only happen if they aren’t in debt already. But, thanks to Bush’s economic policies, we all are. Tax cuts won’t solve it. Deficit spending won’t increase consumer confidence. People will spend money if they feel secure, but right now, we are barely keeping our heads above water trying to cover the basics, not to mention retirement and/or higher education for the future generations. We need a government that will implement policies that help us, and McCain’s policies do anything but.

But, maybe the economy isn’t you’re thing. Maybe you’re more of a rule of law kind of person. Well then, McCain isn’t your guy because he definitely does not support the rule of law, the bedrock of American principles. Foremost is his support for the war in Iraq, which we know was started over lies. However, that doesn’t matter to him. What matters to him is that Americans keep fighting, regardless of whether or not we have a goal or a reason.

Then there’s the troublesome fact that McCain continues to support Bush in all his efforts to restrict the freedoms that make us Americans (those same freedoms that people are fighting and dying for, I assume). And the most important of these would be the Writ of Habeas Corpus, otherwise known as, the ability for anyone who is jailed to appear before a judge and learn why. Now the Constitution says that this cornerstone of freedom may only be suspended in times of “rebellion or invasion,” but Bush just wanted to get rid of it all together. And, thanks to the Republican Congress of 2006, it’s gone. Why worry about the limits of the law when you can just change the laws? Needless to say, I’m more than a little concerned about the serious neutering of the Constitution that has taken place under Bush and that McCain promises to continue.

However, I doubt that these issues will be brought to the attention of the general public. Why would we want to talk about things like economic security and truly protecting freedom (as well as health care, education, the environment, corporate graft, political corruption, the real war on terror, social security, civil rights, I could go on and on)? Why would we want to discuss the issues when we can talk about flag lapel pins and who staffs more lobbyists? Well, probably because the media, following the lead of the Republican Party, is socially backward, morally bankrupt and politically inept. They will focus on God, guns and gays; they will focus on fear and on trivial non-issues to keep us from seeing how truly pathetic American politics has become. Unfortunately, I’m not sure enough Americans will figure it out on their own to keep McCain out of the White House. After Wednesday night’s debate, I saw how the media is going to hand the election to McCain, I just can’t figure out why. If John McCain wins, America will lose.

Friday, April 18, 2008

How to Be a Grown Up -- 101

How to be a grown up 101:
Step one -- taking responsiblity.

At what age can we stop using ignorance as an excuse? Because it’s about time people begin to take responsibility for both their actions and their lack of action. Case in point: the members of the New Jersey National Guard – half of which are scheduled to deploy overseas in the next six months. This upcoming deployment, the largest in the NJ guard’s history, is scheduled to last 18-20 months.

Of the approximately 3,000 soldiers scheduled to deploy, 90 are currently enrolled in degree programs at Rutgers University in New Jersey. There will be a protest held at the Newark campus next week to voice staff and student concern that National Guard members are being uprooted in the middle of the semester. One professor voiced her concern, claiming, “Students should be finishing their accounting degrees, not deploying to Iraq”.

Did we forget that these students, by virtue of signing up for the National Guard and happily cashing their bimonthly paychecks are military members first, and students second? What did these National Guardsmen think they were getting paid for?

Look, I don’t want New Jersey’s children – or anyone’s children – to fight in Uncle Cheney’s oil war. And it goes without saying that I’m obviously in favor of continuing education. But these times aren’t about what I want, they’re about what is actually happening. Bush’s war business is booming; he needs more troops to feed his war machine.

Active duty military personnel have been shouldering the entirety of the war burden for too long. Some of our troops are approaching their fifth deployment to Iraq, and if McCain gets what he wants, we’ll be in Iraq for the next 100 years. It is not unreasonable to expect Reservists and National Guardsmen to contribute to this war effort. They’ve been receiving the paycheck for doing the job – why is it suddenly unfair to ask them to actually do it? And yes, it’s unfortunate that their education will be halted, but their education cannot continue at the expense of our active duty troops.

American apathy coupled with American ignorance is exhausting. First we didn’t know that we were signing mortgages that we couldn’t afford. Now, we didn’t realize that by taking National Guard paychecks, we’d actually be forced to serve in the armed forces. It’s about time that we take responsibility for the actions and choices that we made.

It’s time to step up and say YES – I signed that sub-prime mortgage. YES – I enlisted in the National Guard. And YES – I elected President Bush in 2004. Because knowing that we made a bad decision and admitting to that poor choice is far better than pretending that we didn’t understand the choice to begin with.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

You Can't Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

When we were younger, there was no such thing as “too much of a good thing.” How could we have too much candy or ice cream? But, as we grew older, we realized that even the good things in life can backfire, and that we must try to achieve balance. We balance the good with the bad and the mundane. If we don’t, we loose sight what makes the good valuable. This election has often come to the question of experience and whose has the most and/or the best. And for me, and many other voters, it’s not the size of the experience, but the quality, that counts.

John McCain is a Cold Warrior. He came of age in a militaristic time and he was a POW in a hot war of cold war principles. He was raised to believe in idea that there are only two sides to any issues; the US versus the Soviet Union, Democracy or Communism, War or peace. This is his fatal flaw. He is simply not equipped to deal with the modern world. He has not honed his skills in discerning shades of gray, and the geopolitical situation today is anything but clearly defined. He will constantly fail, as he has already begun to do, when he tries to dilute complex issues into two sides.

I overheard a political advisor on the Bill-O circus the other day (don’t think I make a habit of watching that clown show) say that all McCain has to do to make Obama look weak on Iraq is hold his “stay the course” stance. The advisor stated that when Obama tries to explain his position, he will appear to “flip flop.” I vehemently disagree with this position (but, I encourage McCain to keep it). The longer that McCain sticks to the black and white situation, the more people will realize that he’s not equipped to deal with the complex issues facing the next president. Just as Bush has gooned everything up because of his refusal to address multi-faceted situations, McCain will be a monumental failure when he continues that policy.

And for the past two days, we’ve been shown what “experience” can give us. Obama speaks the truth about people’s opinions of Washington and points out wedge issues for what they are, and then the “experienced” politicians try to jump in and tell us that we don’t feel bitter, that we’re being condescended towards. If anything, it is condescending to tell us how we feel. If their experience has taught them anything, they would be listening to us, reading our letters and realizing that we are bitter. We don’t want to hear a pretty picture of how they will make it all better. We want someone who is willing to address the issues truthfully.

Because the world is complex, we need a president who is willing to face that reality head on (hell, we need a president who’s willing to face reality head on). No more of this doctored intelligence crap or the politicizing of every issue. We need a leader who has the mental agility to absorb many points of view while keeping the best interest of America, not his checking account, in mind.

So, McCain especially, but increasingly Clinton, have failed my experience test. Too often they have shown themselves to be entrenched in the past, stuck in their old ways. And, all I can see is that their experience will not move us forward. Their experience is only good for how things used to be, not what they are or what they will be. They have not shown themselves to be open to the change we need. McCain and Clinton are the old dogs, and right now, we need some new tricks.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Economic Crisis: A Valuable Republican Opportunity

Just when you think you’ve beat the winter flu, your immune system inevitably fails and you get blindsided with that post-winter / pre-spring fever. I got sick earlier this week. Not that I went to the doctor – because I, like 15% of Americans, don’t have health insurance. Not that I could have afforded my co-pay anyways. I made an executive self-decision that my last $20 had to go into my gas tank.

And sadly, for middleclass Americans, this is what it has come to. We’re now projecting cost /benefit analysis into our daily lives. As inflation increases and economic stability decreases, we’re all feeling the pressing pinch of the dwindling dollar.

What we’re seeing now is a redistribution of economic pain as this recession plows forward. It was easy to sit perched on our ivory towers, pointing fingers down at the helpless victims of subprime mortgages. It was easy to blame the mythological behemoth financial institutions and their frivolous money mongering lending policies. Too many of us were quick with our smug smiles, shoulder shrugs and dismissals of self blame.

Unfortunately, what once was ‘it’s not MY problem’ has become ALL of our problems. As a nation, we are all destined to suffer under George Bush’s fouled oil war, the economic downfall and skyrocketing commodity prices. The economic beast pays no mind to social or economic status; he will make victims of us all.

And for those who have escaped this fiscal massacre untouched: beware. Commodities will continue to increase, making purchasing even the most basic items expensive. Increased oil prices will turn weekend road trips into expensive excursions. And interest rate cuts, instead of promoting liquidity, will create inflation. Even our savings accounts can’t catch a break.

In these troubled times, we’re forced to fall back on a life cost/benefit analysis – something many of us aren’t comfortable with applying. This means shifting focus from what we want to what we need by concentrating on the big picture and what’s ultimately important – not the trinkets and toys that we may have to give up every time the closing bell rings red. We’re now confronted with dollars and cents choices that did not exist two years ago. Some of us are going to have to sacrifice that big summer vacation this year, or those weekend road trip getaways.

McCain is missing out on a valuable opportunity. If Bush were running for reelection, he would have already taken credit for all the benefits that the recession has created. After all, Bush’s oil war has prompted a healthy return to the American core. We’ve been forced to abandon our capitalist ideals in exchange for a return to moral fortitude. Perhaps we’ve stumbled upon “American moral restoration” as the next excuse for our endeavors in Iraq – seeing how terrorism, WMD’s, and Iraqi liberation didn’t seem to work. “American moral restoration” could even justify turning a blind eye to the economic crisis. Either way, if there’s one truth we can believe, it’s that the republicans will spin whatever disaster they’ve created into something positive they can take credit for.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

McCain the Next 'Honest Abe'? Highly Doubtful.

John McCain claims that he is a proud to be a Republican in the tradition of “Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan.” Knowing what I do about Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Reagan, I am more than skeptical of McCain’s claim (except for the Reagan part). And, knowing what I do about McCain’s general level of knowledge (low), I am assuming that if someone were to ask him to compare himself to Lincoln and Roosevelt, he would have no clue where to start. And, just a note for his speech writers: before you write something for your candidate, make sure he can back it up when you’re not there.

Since this is kind of long, I’m going to have to do it in two parts. I’ve decided to leave Reagan out because we can all remember his policies, and Reagan was no Lincoln or Roosevelt either. I’ve highlighted some governing philosophies of Lincoln, and we’ll see if McCain is following his “tradition.”

It’s important to note that Lincoln was a Washington outsider. Lincoln spent only two years in the House of Representatives and took a ten year hiatus before he ran for President. Lincoln also had no military experience. Abraham Lincoln highlights:

  • In 1846, he spoke out against the Mexican-American, which he attributed to President Polk's desire for "military glory."
  • Lincoln did not support war for personal gain or presidential legacy. McCain has solidly supported Bush’s war and delusions of military glory.

  • After declaring "God of Heaven has forgotten to defend the weak and innocent, and permitted the strong band of murderers and demons from hell to kill men, women, and children, and lay waste and pillage the land of the just," Lincoln became a political liability and chose not to run for re-election.
  • Lincoln spoke out against injustice, regardless of the consequences. McCain used to speak out, but now he only says what the party tells him to say.

  • However, in 1854, Lincoln returned to politics in response to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which expressly repealed the limits on slavery's extent as determined by the Missouri Compromise.
  • Lincoln was involved in politics to promote justice and the ideas of the founders, not for personal gain. McCain does not support equal rights for all Americans.

  • Lincoln is well known for ending slavery in the United States. In 1861 – 1862, however, he made it clear that the North was fighting the war to preserve the Union, not to abolish slavery. Freeing the slaves became, in late 1862, a war measure to weaken the rebellion by destroying the economic base of its leadership class.
  • When Lincoln had to fight a war, he had sound principles. He did not fight war based on personal feelings or philosophy. Again, McCain supports endless crusades based on the mistaken ideas of a few.

  • In 1863, when Lincoln saw support for his war wavering, and people were disturbed by the draft, he knew he had to make a statement to win back the people. Hence, his decision to go to Gettysburg and urge the Union to highly resolve that the dead there "shall not have died in vain" was Lincoln's way of saying that if the Copperhead peace democrats get their way, then the men who there gave the "last full measure of devotion" will have done so for no reason at all. In the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln was proposing this question: what would these men who died for this cause want us to do--quit now or finish the job? How the country answered this question would determine the 1864 election.
  • Public support in a time of war is always hard to maintain in the face of high casualties. And, we’ve heard Bush say that the soldiers who’ve died in Iraq will not die in vain. And that giving into calls for peace would make the whole effort in vain. So what’s the difference? Well, for starters, Lincoln was fighting a war to protect the integrity of American, and it had a clear definition of success: The southern states return to the United States of America. In Bush’s war and with McCain’s support, the Global War on Terrorism has become a quagmire with no clear goals or definition of success. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, so all those that have died have died in vain because Bush and McCain have chosen not to pursue the real terrorists who harmed America.

  • Even before the war ended, Lincoln was actively pursuing a reconstruction strategy. Determined to find a course that would reunite the nation and not alienate the South, Lincoln urged that speedy elections under generous terms be held throughout the war in areas behind Union lines. His Amnesty Proclamation of December 8, 1863, offered pardons to those who had not held a Confederate civil office, had not mistreated Union prisoners, and would sign an oath of allegiance.
  • Lincoln understands that a solid strategy needs to be in place if the region is going to rebuild. He did not tear down the system of government and replace it with partisans. He allowed the people to continue to govern themselves. McCain has supported the complete destruction of Iraq and the installation of Bush partisans, which has not helped the reconstruction effort.

  • Besides the war, Lincoln took a hands-off approach to legislation, where he allowed Congress to write the legislation and he vetoed only those bills that threatened his war powers. Thus, he signed the Homestead Act in 1862, making millions of acres of government-held land in the West available for purchase at very low cost. The Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act, also signed in 1862, provided government grants for agricultural universities in each state. The Pacific Railway Acts of 1862 and 1864 granted federal support for the construction of the United States' First Transcontinental Railroad, which was completed in 1869. Other important legislation involved economic matters, including the first income tax and higher tariffs. Also included was the creation of the system of national banks by the National Banking Acts of 1863, 1864, and 1865, which allowed the creation of a strong national financial system. Congress created and Lincoln approved the Department of Agriculture in 1862, although that institution would not become a Cabinet-level department until 1889.
  • In his legislation, Lincoln showed that he supported a strong government. He supported the first income tax and higher tariffs. I don’t know if McCain could be more of a polar opposite on this issue. Lincoln also supported government grants for education, and large federal projects for infrastructure. McCain, like Bush, supports only private, for-profit industry. Additionally, Lincoln supported a growing federal government, but supported by the higher taxes and tariffs. This is where I believe McCain is more like Reagan; he says he supports small government, so he reduces taxes, but continues to expand the federal government without the necessary funds. Lastly, Lincoln did not meddle in legislative affairs or veto based on his personal beliefs. McCain has promised more Bush leadership: Approve only what he personally believes in, make no compromises or attempts to see an issue from the majority’s point of view. From what McCain has promised, he could not be more opposed to Lincoln’s governing style.

  • Lincoln largely relied on the Calvinistic "doctrine of necessity" and not organized religion to guide his beliefs. Lincoln’s religious skepticism was fueled by his exposure to the ideas of the Lockean Enlightenment and classical liberalism, especially economic liberalism. Consistent with the common practice of the Whig party, Lincoln would often use the Declaration of Independence as the philosophical and moral expression of these two philosophies.
  • This may be the most important point because it talks to governing and leadership style. Lately, the Republicans have come to be dominated by the Christian Fundamentalists, but this was not what the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln intended. Lincoln based his beliefs on Enlightenment-era philosophies, not religion. The Declaration of Independence was his guiding document. Lincoln believed that America’s destiny was to be shaped by the principles of its founding, not by the Bible. McCain has promised to turn this nation over to the Christian Extremists, which is not something Lincoln would ever do.

    From these ideas, I can only conclude that Lincoln was a man of great principle. He believed in truth, justice, and enlightenment. When he had to fight, he did it judiciously, and based in solid principle. When he led America, he thought about what was best for the nation, not just for his supporters. Lincoln guided this nation through a time of great turmoil, and while he was not perfect, he was thoughtful. McCain promises to be none of these. McCain is a war monger who will continue the harmful, un-Constitutional policies of President Bush and the Christian extremists. If any candidate in this race is like Abraham Lincoln, it is Barack Obama, which these highlights make very clear. McCain should be ashamed for trying to degrade the memory of a good president for his own political gain!

    Coming soon: Is McCain a Roosevelt “Rough Rider?”